Ministers held a first exchange of views on the Commission’s communication on the Trade Policy Review. The Portuguese presidency’s intention is to adopt Council Conclusions during its six-month term.
Trade policy review
EU ministers responsible for trade held an informal video conference focused on the communication on the trade policy review, presented by the Commission on 18 February as a medium-term direction for EU trade policy.
Ministers broadly welcomed the communication and emphasised the timeliness of the review in the context of economic recovery and lessons learned from the pandemic as well as addressing the balance between openness, sustainability and assertiveness of EU trade policy. They generally considered the communication as a good basis for further work.
The review of the EU’s trade policy, as presented by the Commission, is a good start to improve the Union’s strategic autonomy while remaining open to the world. A new EU trade policy will play a key role in the green and digital transformation of our economies, namely by promoting sustainability, thus contributing to a faster and more consistent recovery, with a special focus on SMEs. We count on all Member States to commit to deliver on a balanced approach that ensures the key contribution of trade for growth, jobs and competitiveness.
Augusto Santos Silva, Minister of State and Foreign Affairs
This first debate among EU ministers will help the Portuguese presidency to prepare Council conclusions, with a view to adopting them before the end of June.
With its communication, the Commission sets the course for an open, sustainable and assertive EU trade policy.
The concept of ‘open strategic autonomy’ is central to this communication. According to the Commission, it builds on three main pillars:
-the EU’s openness to contributing to the economic recovery through support for the green and digital transformations
-a renewed focus on strengthening multilateralism and reforming global trade rules to ensure that they are fair and sustainable
-a more assertive stance in defending the EU’s interests and values, protecting the EU economy from unfair trade practices and ensuring a level playing field
The core objectives set out in the Commission communication are to support the recovery and fundamental transformation of the EU economy in line with the green and digital objectives, to shape global rules for a more sustainable and fairer globalisation, and to increase the EU’s capacity to pursue its interests and enforce its rights, including autonomously where needed.
Pursuing all these goals will require stronger engagement with the EU’s global partners, starting with the United States.
The communication reaffirms the need to rebalance the economic relationship with China and also proposes to strengthen the EU’s partnerships with neighbouring and enlargement countries and Africa. Furthermore, the Commission mentions the need to consolidate the EU’s partnerships with key growth regions in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
-2 March 2021